Every year, our client, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), has to fight for its city funding – but this year the stakes were especially high.
While it was a tough year for a lot of local governments and many organizations were feeling the pain, the budget proposal in front of City Hall called for an especially severe cut of more than 50% for WCS’s Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium.
We’d worked with WCS on a highly successful campaign to beat back similar cuts the year before, but with city officials scouring the budget for more and deeper cuts this time around, it was clear that we needed to pull out all the stops if we were going to have any chance of saving this funding this year.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) 3rd Annual 5K Run for the Wild has come and gone – but the lessons from this amazing peer-to-peer fundraising event live on!
While participants aren’t required to fundraise, the goal of the annual, noncompetitive event at the Bronx Zoo is to raise money for WCS’s work to save wildlife and wild places around the world. Each year the identity of the race is built around a specific animal – this year, it was the penguin. Since its inception, fundraising and participation rates have improved steadily. But this year we saw some pretty staggering differences:
- An 85% increase in the total amount donated (that’s just shy of DOUBLE!)
- A 91% increase in the number of donations made.
The number of participants also increased by 40% from 2010 — a sizeable jump to be sure, but not nearly enough to fully explain the boost in fundraising returns. So what else changed?
If you’re a fundraiser or campaigner, you should find plenty of food for thought if you read between the lines of this recent NPR story, “Gamifying the system to create better behavior.” It certainly caught my attention when I heard it!
The story highlights the use of rewards to encourage specific behaviors (in this case, rewarding people for driving the speed limit by entering them into a contest to win a prize or encouraging people to lose weight by putting them on national TV), but they also address a hierarchy to rewards:
Over a year ago, M+R released the results of a test in which we dropped the price of membership with a major nonprofit from $35 to $25 for a limited time for subscribers who had never become members. We teamed up with two University of Maryland economists to roll out the offer and analyze the results.
Reducing the membership to $25 and – here’s the key! – telling supporters it was a special discount raised just a hair more, but it got more people donating. This tactic reduced the average gifts, but increased response rates, securing first-time gifts from more people. Check out the full results from the original study.
But there was still a big question hanging over our heads: Would the donors who gave to the discounted $25 membership perform as well in the long-term, or were they just fair weather fans who would always need a special offer to get them to open their wallets?
We took a deep dive into this nonprofit’s data to find out, looking at 18 months worth of online and offline giving for the donors to the $35 and $25 offers from the original test.
Note: This is an archived publication! Visit www.e-benchmarksstudy.com for the most recent versions of all our Benchmarks studies and Benchmarks Extras.
The 2010 Nonprofit Text Messaging Benchmarks report is the first of its kind. A joint venture between M+R and MobileActive.org, the aim of this study is to provide benchmarks and metrics by which nonprofit organizations can measure their success with text messaging, and to illustrate the various ways in which organizations are using text messaging.